International Hockey Federation president Leandro Negre expects India to be a force to reckon with in the upcoming Junior World Cup, but said it won't be easy for the hosts to win the tournament, in Delhi, from December 6-15.
Negre said the event, to be staged at the Major Dhyan Chand stadium, is the perfect platform for talented, young hockey players to make a name for themselves.
"Of course, if India were to win the tournament the impact would be huge, but with so many great hockey nations competing it is really difficult to predict who will lift the trophy," he added.
Speaking on India's promising young brigade making the transition from junior to senior level, he said: "India has always been strong at the junior level. However, it is not always easy to make the transition from junior to senior hockey.
"This is not something which is unique to India but applies to every hockey-playing nation in the world. That said, the India men's team is very talented and looks to have a fine crop of young talent coming through the ranks. I think it's really important that India gets behind the team during the Junior World Cup, as fan support can really make a big difference. The future looks bright for Indian hockey," he said.
The fact that the event is being hosted in India is an added bonus for Negre, as he is extremely fond of the country.
"I am really looking forward to visiting the country again. I love everything about coming to India. I am always made to feel extremely welcome here. Hockey events in India are always very special, and the atmosphere when the home team are in action is something that has to be seen to be believed. It is a real privilege to experience it," he said.
Image: Leandro Negre
Photograph: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters